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How Long Do You Have to Pay Off Student Loans?

The standard time to pay off federal student loans is 10 years, but terms can range from five to more than 20 years depending on the type of loan and repayment program. Your situation will also determine how long it takes to pay off student loans, including how much you owe in student loans and how much of a payment you can afford to make each month.

Paying Back Student Loans

You need to start paying back student loans after you graduate from college, withdraw, or drop below half-time enrollment. Most federal loans, including Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and many private loans, come with a six-month grace period, meaning your payments won’t actually be due for six months until leaving school.

When it comes time to pay back your student loans, one of the most important things you can do is make sure your payments are on time each month. Making late student loan payments or failing to make your payments can have serious consequences, including student loan default.

How Long to Pay Off Student Loans

Once your loans become due, you’ll have the option of choosing a student loan repayment plan. Options for federal student loans include the Standard Repayment Plan, Extended Repayment Plan, Graduated Repayment Plan, and income-driven repayment (IDR) plans. These various repayment options come with their own pros and cons, so it’s important to understand your needs and which one makes the most financial sense.

If you don’t make a choice, your federal loans will automatically be enrolled in the Standard Repayment Plan. Here, the length of your repayment period is set to 10 years.

If you have private student loans, your repayment period is what you agreed to when you signed the loan. These will vary by lender and your personal situation. Those that can make larger monthly payments are typically able to pay off their loans in a shorter amount of time, assuming the debt loads are similar.


💡 Quick Tip: Get flexible terms and competitive rates when you refinance your student loan with SoFi.

Standard Repayment Plan: 10 Years

You have 10 years to pay off your student loans under the Standard Repayment Plan. You’ll pay a set amount every month (minimum $50) and may pay less overall for the student loan because of the relatively short loan term. (Many income-driven repayment plans, for comparison, can have terms of up to 25 years!)

For most federal student loans, the standard repayment option includes a six-month grace period that allows recent graduates to get a head start on finding a job. The clock starts ticking the moment you graduate, leave school, or fall below half-time enrollment. Loans that offer a student loan grace period include:

•  Direct Subsidized Loans

•  Direct Unsubsidized Loans

•  Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans

•  Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans

While having extra time before making your first payment sounds nice, be aware that interest continues to accrue during those months on unsubsidized loans and will be added back into the loan, increasing the principal. Direct Subsidized Loans do not accrue interest during the grace period.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Standard Repayment Plans might not be a good choice for you if you’re trying to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Borrowers pursuing this program agree to work in underserved areas for a government entity or certain nonprofits and must meet rigorous requirements to have their loan forgiven after 120 qualifying payments. To qualify for this program, you’ll have to change to an income-driven repayment plan as opposed to the Standard Repayment Plan.

Direct Loan Consolidation

Combining your federal student loans on the Standard Repayment Plan into a Direct Consolidation Loan could open up several repayment options. Consolidation combines your federal loans into one loan with a single interest rate, which could simplify the repayment process. The interest rate is the weighted average of the loans you are consolidating, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of a percentage.

Your loan term will depend on the amount of student loan debt that you have, ranging from 10 to 30 years. Extending your loan term may lower your monthly payment, but keep in mind that you’ll most likely end up paying more in interest over the life of the loan.

Recommended: Student Loan Repayment Calculator

Graduated and Extended Plans

Graduated Repayment Plans: 10 Years Standard; Up to 30 Years Consolidated

Generally, all federal loan borrowers can opt for the Graduated Repayment Plan. This plan could be an option for borrowers who expect their income to rise over time. It starts off with low monthly payments that gradually increase at two-year intervals. The idea is that recent graduates’ salaries at entry-level positions may start off low, but will rise over 10 years via promotions or new jobs.

The downsides of the Graduated Repayment Plan are that you could be paying more over the life of the loan, and if your salary doesn’t increase as anticipated, the later payments can become burdensome. The bright side — you could switch to an income-driven plan or the Extended Repayment Plan (below) which may make loan payments more affordable.

So how long do you have to pay back your student loan under the Graduated Repayment Plan? Borrowers have between 10 and 30 years to pay off the loan.

Extended Repayment Plans: Up to 25 Years

Like the Graduated Repayment Plan, the Extended Repayment Plan allows qualified applicants to extend the term of the loan, making monthly payments smaller. Borrowers may end up paying more in interest the longer the loan term, but there are options for a fixed monthly payment or a graduated payment that will rise throughout the term.

Extended Repayment Plans are geared toward borrowers who owe sizable sums. To qualify, you must owe $30,000 or more in federal student loan debt.

Neither Graduated Repayment Plans nor Extended Repayment Plans qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Income-Driven Repayment Plans

Income-driven repayment plans are designed to make repayment easier if you can prove that paying back your student loans is a significant financial burden. This is based on factors including your discretionary income and family size. However, the longer terms mean you could easily pay more in interest over the life of the loan.

How long do you have to pay back student loans under income-driven repayment plans? Each of the following four plans has a different payback period. Under all four plans, remaining balances on eligible student loans are forgiven after making a certain number of qualifying on-time payments.

Saving On A Valuable Education (SAVE) — 10 to 25 Years

This is the newest IDR plan that replaced the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) program. Currently under SAVE, monthly payments are capped at 10% of your discretionary income. In July of 2024, that threshold will fall to 5% for borrowers with undergraduate loans. Graduate borrowers will pay a weighted average between 5% and 10% of their discretionary income.

Also starting next year, borrowers with original principal loan balances of $12,000 or less can have their remaining balances forgiven after 10 years of payments. For each additional $1,000 borrowed above $12,000, you’ll continue to make payments for another year, up to 20 or 25 years, depending on the degree.

Pays As You Earn (PAYE) — 20 Years

Your monthly payment is roughly 10% of your discretionary income and you’ll make 20 years of payments.

Income-Based Repayment (IBR) — 20 or 25 Years

Again, your monthly payment will be about 10% of your discretionary income. You’ll have 20 years to pay back the loan if you’re a new borrower on or after July 1, 2014. If you borrowed before that date, you will have 25 years to finish making payments.

Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) — 25 Years

Under ICR, your monthly payment amount will be either 20% of your discretionary income, or the amount you would pay on a repayment plan with a fixed payment over 12 years, whichever is less. Any remaining balance is forgiven after 25 years.


💡 Quick Tip: Refinancing could be a great choice for working graduates who have higher-interest graduate PLUS loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and/or private loans

Which Repayment Plan Is Right for You?

Choosing a student loan repayment plan is a personal decision that will depend on factors such as the amount of student loan debt you have, the industry you work in, your current income and expenses, your estimated future income, and your career goals. For example, if you plan to work in the nonprofit industry and are pursuing PSLF, switching to an income-driven repayment plan may make the most sense.

Are Repayment Terms the Same for Private Student Loans?

Private student loans are not required to offer the same benefits or repayment plans as federal student loans. The term and repayment plan available to you will be determined by the private lender at the time you borrow the loan. This is based on your credit profile and debt-to-income ratio, among other factors. If you have private student loans and have questions about your loan term, contact your lender directly.

Can You Shorten Your Student Loan Repayment Term?

It is possible to shorten your loan term. Borrowers can do this by refinancing their student loans and selecting a shorter term. Shortening the loan term can also decrease the total amount spent on interest over the life of the loan, especially if you qualify for a lower interest rate, too.

However, keep in mind that refinancing federal loans means you are no longer eligible for federal protections or payment plans. If you’re interested in using federal benefits like an income-driven repayment option or student loan forgiveness, refinancing may not make sense.

You can also indirectly shorten your student loan repayment term by making extra payments toward your loan, either monthly or as you can. Before making an extra payment, make sure to contact your lender and have them apply the extra payment to the principal amount. If you don’t do this, the payment may go toward your next month’s payment, which would include interest.

The Takeaway

How long you have to pay off student loans depends on the types of loans you have, the student loan repayment option you choose, and how large of monthly payments you can make.

Options for paying off student loans include the Standard Repayment Plan, Extended Repayment Plan, Graduated Repayment Plan, and income-based repayment plans. You can also choose to consolidate your federal loans into one loan with one monthly payment or refinance federal and/or private student loans into a new loan with a new interest rate.

If you choose to refinance your student loans, the benefits include the potential of a lower interest rate or a lower monthly payment. If you choose a shorter loan term, your monthly payment will be higher but you’ll most likely pay less in interest over the life of the loan. A longer loan term will get you a lower monthly payment, but you’ll pay more in interest overall.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.

FAQ

Is there a time limit to pay off student loans?

There is a time limit for paying off student loans. This is determined by the loan term and repayment plan selected by the borrower. For example, under the Standard Repayment Plan, borrowers repay their student loans over a period of 10 years. On some income-driven repayment plans, the repayment period is extended up to 25 years.

Do student loans go away after 25 years?

For borrowers enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan, the remaining balance is forgiven or canceled at the end of the loan term, which may be 20 or 25 years. This forgiven balance may be considered taxable income by the IRS, so be sure to understand if that is the case for you.

Are student loans forgiven after 7 years?

No, student loans do not go away after seven years. There are no federal programs offering loan forgiveness after seven years.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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When Do Student Loan Rates Increase?

Federal student loan interest rates are set by Congress. Each spring, they determine the next school year’s interest rates based on the high yield of the last 10-year Treasury note auction in May. The new rates apply to loans disbursed between July 1 and June 30 of the next year.

For private student loans, the lender determines the interest rate, and it may vary depending on which financial institution you’re working with as well as your own financial profile. Unlike federal loans, the decision to change rates on a private student loan rate can happen more than once a year. A private lender might change rates monthly, quarterly, or annually — it’s up to them to decide.

If you already hold student loans, then the rates of those loans may or may not change. It depends on whether you have a federal or private loan, and if that loan has a variable or fixed interest rate.

Learn more here about the federal student loan interest rate in 2023-24, what’s being proposed for the future, and options you have if your loan has a variable interest rate.

Federal Student Loan Interest Rates Change Annually

Under a law adopted by Congress in 1993, the federal government pegged federal student loan interest rates to the longer-term US Treasury rates, and those interest rates are adjusted annually for new federal student loans.

Your interest rate will also depend on the type of loan you take out. Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans tend to have the lowest rates, while Direct PLUS loans have the highest. Sometimes, Congress will lower interest rates, but they raised them in 2022 and 2023. We won’t know federal student loan interest rates for the 2024-25 school year until May 2024.

Each year, the new rates take effect on July 1 and apply to federal student loans taken out for the following academic year. The federal student loan interest rates rose from the 2017–2018 to the 2018–2019 school years, but decreased for the 2019–2020 and 2020-2021 school years. For the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years, student loan interest rates increased again.

Note, though, that these changes only apply to new student loans. Once you’ve taken out a federal student loan, the rate of that loan will stay the same unless you pursue consolidation or refinancing.


💡 Quick Tip: Get flexible terms and competitive rates when you refinance your student loan with SoFi.

Student Loan Rates for the 2023–2024 School Year

So what will student loan interest rates be in 2023?

For the 2023-2024 school year, the interest rate on Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized loans for undergraduates is 5.50%, the rate on Direct Unsubsidized loans for graduate and professional students is 7.05%, and the rate on Direct PLUS loans for graduate students, professional students, and parents is 8.05%. The interest rates on federal student loans are fixed and are set annually by Congress.

In an effort to keep the interest rates on federal student loans from skyrocketing, Congress has set limits on how high-interest rates can go. Undergraduate loans are capped at 8.25%, graduate loans can’t go higher than 9.5%, and the limit on parental loans is capped at 10.5%. Since 2006, the highest interest rates reached for Direct Subsidized Loans and Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans was 6.8%.


💡 Quick Tip: Get flexible terms and competitive rates when you refinance your student loan with SoFi.

Private Student Loan Rates Can Change at Any Time

Private student loans are from banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions, and they get to set the interest rates on the loans they disburse. Some private loans have fixed rates, which means you lock in an interest rate and it doesn’t change for the life of the loan. Other private loans have variable rates, which means the interest rate might go up and down over the course of the loan.

As of July 2023, financial institutions use Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) to help with pricing corporate and consumer loans, including business loans, student loans, mortgages, and credit cards.

Private lenders can raise or lower interest rates at any time, but any changes usually have to do with changes in the economy, such as the Federal Reserve deciding to raise or cut interest rates.

If Your Loan Has a Variable Interest Rate, a Hike Could Be in the Cards

If you take out a federal student loan, the loan’s interest rate is fixed. This means the interest rate stays the same over the life of the loan. But since you need to re-apply for federal aid every year you attend college, you may end up with four loans with four different interest rates.

When you apply for a private student loan or refinance an existing loan, borrowers can typically choose between a fixed and variable interest rate.

When you take out a private student loan, the original rate depends on your credit score, employment history, and current income level — among other factors, which vary by lender.

If your private loan has a variable rate, the rate may fluctuate as the economy changes. In the past year, the Federal Reserve has increased benchmark interest rates numerous times to try to help control inflation. Rates may rise again, but it’s impossible to say for certain.

Recommended: Student Loan Refinancing Guide

What to Do if You Have a Variable-Rate Loan

If your private student loan has a variable interest rate and you’re worried that interest rates might increase, you may have some options. Student loan refinancing involves taking out a new loan with a new interest rate. By refinancing, borrowers have the opportunity to make only one monthly payment instead of balancing multiple payments, and they may be able to lock in a fixed rate so they no longer have to be concerned with rate hikes.

Individuals whose financial situation has improved since originally borrowing their loan(s) may qualify for a lower interest rate.

The Takeaway

Should you refinance your student loans if you’re worried interest rates will change? If you have federal loans, you’ve already locked in a fixed interest rate so you don’t need to worry about interest rate changes. Plus, it’s important to remember that when federal student loans are refinanced, they are no longer eligible for federal borrower protections. But if you have a private loan with a variable interest rate, it may be worth exploring loan refinancing.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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How to Get Student Loans Out of Default

Editor's Note: For the latest developments regarding federal student loan debt repayment, check out our student debt guide.

As student loan debt increases, it’s likely that so will the number of borrowers defaulting on their student loans. Student debt in the U.S. has reached crisis levels at $1.76 trillion. The average borrower owes $37,338 in federal student loan debt.

Approximately 4 million student loans go into default every year, according to EducationData.org. About one in 10 borrowers have defaulted at some point, and about 5% of all student loan debt is currently in default.

Failure to make payments on your student loans can result in serious consequences. If you’re struggling with your student loans and are in danger of defaulting, there are options. The sooner you take action to remedy your student loan troubles, the better.

If your loans are already in default, there are steps you can take to recover. Read on to learn how to get student loans out of default.

What is Considered Student Loan Default?

At its most basic, student loan default happens when you have failed to make payments on your student loans.

If you have a federal student loan, the U.S. Department of Education considers your loan delinquent the day after you miss your first payment. After 90 days, your failure to pay will be reported to all three big credit bureaus, which may negatively impact your credit score.

If your loan is delinquent, there are steps you can take to prevent the loan from going into default. If you’ve failed to make a payment or two, consider applying for student loan deferment or forbearance, especially if you’re facing a temporary financial hardship.

If you’re having long-term difficulty paying your monthly student loan payments, an option is to see if you can change your payment terms to reduce your monthly bill. This process will extend the life of the loan (lowering your monthly loan payments usually involves lengthening your loan term) and you’ll most likely pay more in interest over the life of the loan. However, making payments on time can help you avoid defaulting and the consequences that come with it.

After 270 days of nonpayment, the loan is considered in default, triggering a series of consequences for the borrower.

For example, the default and history of missed payments can stay on your credit report for years to come. You also become ineligible for federal payment assistance such as forbearance, deferment, and student loan forgiveness. Any costs associated with collecting the loan are added to your balance due, and the government has the ability to garnish your wages or seize your tax refund.

There is a temporary on-ramp period in place to help struggling borrowers transition back to making their payments after the end of the pandemic-era federal forbearance period. From Oct. 1, 2023 to Sept. 30, 2024, borrowers who miss payments will not have their loans considered delinquent or in default, have those missed payments reported to the credit bureaus, or be referred to collections agencies. At the end of the on-ramp period, however, any missed payments during that time become due.


💡 Quick Tip: Enjoy no hidden fees and special member benefits when you refinance student loans with SoFi.

Tips for How to Get Student Loans Out of Default

If you’re wondering how to get student loans out of default, there are options. These include: loan rehabilitation, consolidation, refinancing, or paying off the loan in full—including any additional interest accrued on student loans. Oftentimes, borrowers in default are unable to repay their loans in full, so the following alternatives may be more practical.

1. Loan Rehabilitation

You may be able to remove a default from your credit report through student loan rehabilitation. The specifics on how to remove your default via student loan rehabilitation depend on the type of loan you have. Here’s roughly what the process looks like if you have federal loans in default:

First, you contact your lender’s customer service office to request a rehabilitation plan for your loan. Second, you want to be sure you can commit to the program since you can’t rehabilitate a loan a second time.

Third, you follow your lender’s plan. That means making nine payments on time, usually at a lower payment rate (your lender determines the monthly payment amount, usually equal to 15% of your annual discretionary income, divided by 12).

Once you’ve successfully made all payments on rehabilitated student loans, the default can be removed from your credit report, but sometimes it takes about 90 days. Note that missed payments prior to the default on your loan will remain on your credit report, and your loan holder may still take involuntary payments (like wage garnishment) until your loan is no longer in default and/or you begin making rehabilitation payments.

Once you have rehabilitated student loans and you’ve again become a borrower in good standing with your lender, you now have the opportunity to get further relief through forbearance or deferment, especially if you’re still struggling.

2. Loan Consolidation

If you have federal student loans, you may be able to consolidate your student loans into one Direct Consolidation Loan. By consolidating, you pay off your existing loans and replace them with one new loan. The new rate is a weighted average of the interest rates on your old loans, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of a percent.

If you qualify to consolidate your student loans, you have the ability to choose a different payment plan, including income-driven repayment plans. These plans lower your monthly payment to a percentage of your discretionary income. Most plans also extend the term out to 20 or 25 years, and cancel any remaining balance once the term is up (the SAVE plan, however, awards forgiveness as soon as 10 years for certain borrowers). Keep in mind that extending your repayment term could mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.

You can also consolidate and refinance your federal and private student loans with a private lender, reaping some of the same benefits as consolidating your federal student loans: paying off several loans with one new loan and potentially lowering your payments.

But unlike federal student loan consolidation, a private loan consolidation doesn’t limit you to a weighted average of your previous loan rates, so you may be able to get a better rate depending on your personal financial history and current financial situation. When you consolidate student loans with a private lender, you are essentially refinancing them.

3. Refinancing Your Loans

If you have a solid personal financial picture (which includes things like your income and credit score), you may be able to refinance your loans with a private lender instead of consolidating them with the government. You may get a lower interest rate, which can allow you to trim the amount of interest you’ll pay over time, unless you extend the loan to lower your monthly payments instead. (You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.)

However, if you’re wondering how to get student loans out of default, your credit has likely already suffered. An option for those who want to refinance, but have a less-than-great credit score, is finding a cosigner for the loan. With a cosigner, you may be better able to qualify for refinancing. However, your cosigner would be equally responsible for the loan.

If you qualify for student loan refinancing, you may be able to also adjust the loan term, extending it to get a more manageable monthly payment or shortening the term to pay off your loan sooner. If you lengthen the loan term you may pay more in interest over the life of the loan, and a shorter-term usually means higher monthly payments.

But when you refinance a federal student loan with a private lender, you’ll no longer be eligible for federal protections, such as income-driven repayment plans or Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Recommended: Student Loan Refinancing Guide

How Refinancing Can Help Keep You From Defaulting

If you are at risk of defaulting on your student loans, there’s no better time than now to take action. It’s scary to not be able to pay your student loans. But there are ways to lower your monthly payments before you go into default.

First, if you have federal loans, you may want to look into income-based repayment plans, as mentioned above, which can lower your payments in accordance with your discretionary income.

If you’d like to consider refinancing your student loans, this could also potentially lower your payments. If you qualify for refinancing, you can opt to extend your loan term, and potentially secure a more manageable monthly payment. (You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.) Using a student loan refinance calculator can help you see how your payments might change.

While a refinanced loan with a longer term could mean paying more in interest over the life of your loan, it could also help you get your payments under control.

Should you refinance your student loans? You’ll need to weigh the pros and cons. Again, keep in mind that if you refinance with a private lender, you will lose access to federal loan benefits like income-based repayment plans, forbearance, and deferment.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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Law Enforcement Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

Considering a career in law enforcement? Besides the satisfaction of serving the public good, one benefit of doing so may be the opportunity to take advantage of the student loan forgiveness program for police officers.

Key Points

•   Law enforcement officers may qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) which forgives remaining Direct Loan balances after 120 qualifying payments.

•   Eligibility for PSLF requires employment with a government or non-profit organization, which includes various law enforcement agencies.

•   Perkins Loans may also be forgiven for law enforcement personnel, with up to 100% cancellation possible after five years of qualified service.

•   Loan refinancing options are available for law enforcement officials who do not qualify for forgiveness programs.

•   Employment certification forms are necessary to confirm eligibility for PSLF benefits within law enforcement roles.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness for Law Enforcement

Public Service Loan Forgiveness may offer loan forgiveness of Direct Loans for police officers and other government employees. The program started in 2007 and offers federal student loan forgiveness for borrowers who work full-time in the public service sector and make 120 qualifying on-time payments (you can see all of the qualifications on the federal student aid website).

This means that if you’re a police officer who works for the government and successfully makes 10 years of qualifying payments, you may be eligible to have the remainder of your debt wiped out entirely.

Of course, this option is not available to everyone; you must work for a qualifying employer to earn forgiveness. Generally, government organizations may be considered qualifying employers under PSLF, which means that if you work for tribal, city, county, state, or federal law enforcement, you may qualify.

And because Public Service Loan Forgiveness is not just limited to police officers, other staff at these agencies may qualify as well—even if they’re not on the frontlines. (Note that detention officers who work at for-profit prisons are not eligible because they work for a private company and not the government or non-profit.)

To be sure that your job is considered public service under the PSLF program, you can submit a PSLF employment certification form. This form is used to confirm that your current job qualifies for PSLF benefits.


💡 Quick Tip: Ready to refinance your student loan? With SoFi’s no-fee loans, you could save thousands.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Requirements

In addition to restrictions on the type of employment that is eligible for PSLF, there are other criteria you must meet in order to take advantage of this student loan forgiveness for police officers.

First, your student loans must be Direct Loans, borrowed from the federal government. Private student loans are not eligible for loan forgiveness under PSLF.

Additionally, you may be required to consolidate your federal student loans before you qualify for PSLF. Consolidation is a process by which you combine all of your federal student loans, such as Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, or PLUS Loans, into one new loan.

Further, you must work full-time in order to qualify for PSLF. That means that in addition to working for a qualified employer, you also need to be employed full-time, which is generally 30 hours or more per week.

There is one exception to this requirement, however: If you work part-time for two different qualifying employers and you work more than thirty hours per week between the two jobs, you may still qualify for PSLF.

Finally, in order to take advantage of the PSLF for law enforcement, you must make 120 qualifying student loan payments. That means that even if you’re working full-time for a qualified employer and plan to take advantage of PSLF, you are still responsible for paying back your student loans for 10 years.

PSLF only forgives the amount of your student loan remaining after the 10 years of qualifying payments. And if you miss a month or are more than 15 days late in making your payment, it won’t count towards your 120 total. That means you could end up making more than 120 payments before the government clears your loans for loan forgiveness.

The one bright side here is that the 120 monthly payments you are responsible for before you can qualify for PSLF can be on any valid federal loan repayment plan. This means that you may be able to choose a plan that keeps your monthly payments relatively low until your 120 payments are complete.

Perkins Loan Forgiveness for Police Officers

Perkins Loans, which were offered until September 2017, may also be eligible for forgiveness if you consolidate them into a Direct Consolidation Loan. Perkins Loans were administered and distributed by your college, which often means that borrowers end up paying one student loan payment to the federal government and one to their alma mater. Under the Perkins Loan program , certain employment such as law enforcement and teaching may qualify for a full or partial Perkins Loan cancellation.

To qualify for forgiveness of your Perkins Loans, you must be employed full-time as a law-enforcement officer or in another qualifying position. If you qualify for Perkins Loan forgiveness, a certain percentage of your loans will be forgiven each year of full-time qualifying employment as follows:

Year 1: Forgiveness of 15% of your loan.

Year 2: Forgiveness of 15% of your loan.

Year 3: Forgiveness of 20% of your loan.

Year 4: Forgiveness of 20% of your loan.

Year 5: Forgiveness of 30% of your loan.

That’s right, after five years of qualifying employment, you could be eligible to get up to 100% of your Perkins Loan forgiven if you’re a law enforcement officer. On top of that, you may not have to pay your Perkins Loans while you hold a qualifying job, which can mean you might end up never paying back a penny of your Perkins loan.

Because colleges independently disbursed Perkins Loans, each school also runs its own forgiveness program. To see if you qualify, reach out to your school’s billing department.

Loan Refinancing for Law Enforcement Officials

For law enforcement officials who don’t qualify for PSLF, student loan refinancing may be able to help you lower the cost of your student loan repayment. This involves taking out a new, private loan to pay off your existing loans, which can include federal and private loans). However, keep in mind that if you refinance federal student loans, you permanently forfeit eligibility for federal benefits and protections, including PSLF, income-driven repayment, deferment and forbearance.

Loan refinancing is one of the few ways to potentially decrease the total amount of interest you pay on your student loan. If you qualify, lowering your interest rate can add up to some serious savings over the life of your loan, depending on how long you take to repay it.

If you’re dealing with high loan payments and are looking to free up some monthly cash flow, refinancing may also help you lower your monthly payment. This can be done by getting a lower interest rate and/or extending the length of the repayment term. Just keep in mind that by extending the term, you may end up paying more interest over time.

Additionally, student loan refinancing allows you to focus on paying off your loan over a fixed time period, meaning that you won’t be stuck paying interest on your loans for the rest of your life.

Of course, not all law enforcement officials will benefit from refinancing, particularly those planning on taking advantage of Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Make sure to do your due diligence when picking out a loan repayment plan that is right for you. In general, there are many loan repayment and loan forgiveness options available to law enforcement, which means you can focus on your job instead of your loans.

Student Loan Refinancing With SoFi

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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10 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Student Loan Refinance Lender

More than 43 million Americans have student loan debt. Today, the average borrower graduates with a balance of nearly $38,000. For those with private loans, that amount may be closer to $40,500.

If you’re among those borrowers looking for ways to reduce student loan debt as quickly and easily as possible, you may want to consider refinancing.

A common reason for refinancing student loans is to secure a lower interest rate, which can help lower monthly payments and save money on interest. But you may also choose to refinance to change other loan terms or change your lender.

But choosing a refinance lender can be overwhelming. So to help you evaluate student loan refinancing companies, we’ve created a handy cheat sheet. Asking these 10 questions can help you zero-in on your best fit.

Student Loan Refinance Lender Questions Cheat Sheet

1. How Great is the Rate?

One of the main reasons to refinance your loans is to get a lower interest rate.

Ask the lender to provide your interest rate before doing a hard credit pull. Most online lenders allow you to prequalify with a “soft” credit pull , which won’t impact your credit score.1 This should allow you to “rate shop” without affecting your credit.

A “hard” credit inquiry, on the other hand, stays on your credit report for up to two years. One or two hard inquiries will probably have a minimal impact on your credit. But several within a short period can harm it, which is why it’s important to get quotes before officially applying for a loan.

You can use a student loan refinancing calculator to estimate your total savings with a new refinanced loan, even before you prequalify.


💡 Quick Tip: Get flexible terms and competitive rates when you refinance your student loan with SoFi.

2. Do the Pros Outweigh the Cons?

All new federal student loans are granted through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program. Private student loans, on the other hand, are provided by individual financial institutions.

Refinancing federal student loans is an option available to borrowers. Sometimes, refinancing can be beneficial. For example, it may be a good idea if you can qualify for a lower interest rate and save a significant amount of money.

Others may find that refinancing a federal loan isn’t the right option for them. Here’s a quick list of some of the pros and cons to consider if you’re thinking of refinancing federal student loans.

Some of the Pros to Consider:

•   Long-Term Savings: Refinancing to a lower interest rate could potentially help you save money in interest over the life of the loan.

•   Lower Monthly Payments: You can also choose to extend the repayment term, which would result in lower monthly payments. This may make sense if you’re struggling to fit your payments into your budget. However, you may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.

•   Faster loan payoff: Imagine having no more student loans to pay back! By shortening your loan term, you could speed up your repayment.

•   Rate Change: Variable rates often start off lower than fixed rates, which can be helpful if you plan to pay off your loan quickly.

Some of the Cons to Consider:

•   Loss of Access to Federal Repayment Plans: When you refinance federal loans with a private lender, they’ll no longer qualify for any federal repayment plans. This includes income-driven repayment plans that reduce payments to a small percentage of your income.

•   No Longer Eligible Federal Forgiveness Programs: If you’re pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) or other federal forgiveness programs, refinancing may not be the right option for you, since doing so makes your loans ineligible.

•   Inability to Defer Your Loans: You’d also lose the opportunity to put your federal student loans into deferment or forbearance in the event of financial difficulty.

3. Can You Pick Between Fixed and Variable Rate Loans?

With a fixed rate loan, the interest rate is locked in for the entire life of the loan. This means you’ll have a predictable monthly payment for the entire term.

The interest rate on a variable-rate loan, however, can go up or down over time, depending on market conditions. While the initial rate may be lower, you could end up with a high rate a few years into your loan.

Fixed-rate loans are generally considered to be less risky than variable rate loans. But if you’re able to repay your loan in a relatively short time period, variable-rate loans can be worth considering.

You can use SoFi’s student loan payment calculator to estimate your student loan payments with a fixed rate. Tools like this can help give you an idea of how much more you may need to be paying each month if you want to pay your loan off faster.

4. Can You Choose Your Loan Term?

Typically, this is the case. But beware: Choosing the term that results in the lowest monthly payment isn’t always the best option. Stretching out your repayment term helps reduce the monthly payments, but it also means you’ll pay more in interest over the life of the loan.

If you recently graduated, you may not be making enough money to afford your current payment. In that case, a longer term with lower monthly payments to free up some cash flow in the short-term might make sense.

Be realistic about how much you can afford to pay back each month. If you can afford a higher monthly payment, you’ll likely pay off your loan more quickly, and ultimately pay less money in interest.


💡 Quick Tip: When refinancing a student loan, you may shorten or extend the loan term. Shortening your loan term may result in higher monthly payments but significantly less total interest paid. A longer loan term typically results in lower monthly payments but more total interest paid.

5. What Happens if You Lose Your Job?

Life is unpredictable, and if you unexpectedly lose your job, it may be difficult to keep up with your loan payments. When you miss loan payments, you might incur late fees or other penalties. Additionally, late payments can have a negative impact on your credit score. After a series of missed payments, the loan could go into default.

Borrowers with federal student loans can apply for deferment or forbearance to temporarily reduce or pause their loan payments while they look for work. Or they can look into income-driven repayment plans, provided their federal student loans are current.

6. Will the Lender Help With Your Career?

The higher your earnings, the easier it is to pay off your student loans quickly. A lender who helps you get ahead in your career understands this principle.

Lenders know that if you can’t get a job, or you lose your job, you won’t be able to pay back your loans. Ask your lender if they offer any networking or other career services that could help you advance in your career.

7. What Other Perks Come With Your New Loan?

Not all lenders are created equal. As you are reviewing different lenders and refinancing options, review everything the lender has to offer. In some cases, you might find you qualify for similar refinancing options at a few different lenders, but one might offer additional benefits that pushes it ahead of the other options.

A few of the perks of refinancing with SoFi include:

•   Zero hidden fees: There are no application fees, origination fees, or prepayment penalties.

•   Add a cosigner: Many students have limited income and credit history, so adding a cosigner could help improve their application’s chances of being approved.

•   Automatic payments: Not only can automatic payments help prevent any late or missed payments, but enrolling your SoFi loan in autopay could qualify you for an interest rate reduction.

8. Is the Application Online?

The last thing you want is to be buried in a mountain of actual paperwork. Look for lenders that offer a short, simple, online form.

9. What’s the Lender’s Reputation?

Make sure to do your due diligence on any potential lender. A quick Google search should provide some online reviews and media coverage of the lender, which will help you determine if they’re legitimate.

You can also check out their social media pages. Overall engagement levels and conversations within a lender’s social communities may provide additional, valuable insights and help give you a sense of the company’s commitment to things like customer service.

10. Will the Lender Grow With You?

Sure, lenders can refinance your student loans, but what about helping you with other financial milestones, such as buying a home and saving for retirement? Look for a lender that sees the big picture—and wants to invest in your long-term success.

Start the Refinancing Process Today

Whether you’re ready to start your application or you’re just beginning to consider refinancing, the SoFi team is here to help. Refinancing your student loans with SoFi could help you spend less money in interest, lower your monthly payments, or even pay off your loan faster. (You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.)

Keep in mind that refinancing federal student loans with a private lender will eliminate them from federal protections and benefits like deferment, loan forgiveness, and income-driven repayment plans.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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